Spain’s Jorge Ordoñez -Spring 2008

Pioneering new wines from the Old World

by: Josh Gray

For the many varieties of Spanish grapes and the fine wines that are painstakingly made from them, few people, if any, have contributed more than Jorge Ordoñez.

Being honored this May as the first recipient of the Nantucket Wine Festival’s “Wine Luminary of the Year” award, Ordoñez is the premier importer and maker of Spanish wines in the United States.

Recognized many times for his contributions to the world of wine, he has caught the attention of many influential critics, including Robert Parker, publisher of the Wine Advocate, a bi-monthly newsletter that has set the standard for fine wines for almost 30 years. He has twice named Ordoñez the “Wine Personality of the Year.”

“Ordoñez was a pioneer, the first to exploit and represent numerous backwater, under-the-radar viticultural regions of Spain, and have the courage to sell these wonderful wines that have been accepted with great enthusiasm by American wine consumers. His legacy in the history of quality wine from Spain is enormous and unequaled by any other importer,” Parker said.

Born in the small coastal city of Málaga, Spain, Ordoñez began to discover his calling as a teenager working in his family’s restaurant and wine business helping his father with whatever needed to be done. In an era of economic depression in Spain – a time when the fascist rule of Francisco Franco was a recent memory – the wine industry was in shambles, said Ordoñez.

In a country where wine plays a huge role in society at large, a country that Ordoñez said consumes many millions of liters a year, the industry as a whole had declined to a point where quality was no longer important, only quantity. With the introduction of tourism, the demand became too strong for many vineyards to maintain a quality product, a quality that, Ordoñez said, had cultivated a magnificent reputation over hundreds of years.

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